Wightlink Raiders’ fans will welcome their team onto home ice this weekend for the first time since November, after safety officials gave the all-clear for Ryde Arena to open its doors once again.
Work has been going on to restore the building after strong winds had caused damage to the roof and Raiders were allowed back last Sunday to play Streatham Redskins behind closed doors.
Oxford City Stars and Bracknell Hornets are this weekend’s visitors to the island, with Raiders looking to take advantage of playing 10 of their final 12 NIHL1 South games on home ice.
Defenseman Bobby Streetly (above) says the team are delighted to be back in familiar surroundings.
“There’s a massive amount of work gone on behind the scenes to get the rink back open so quickly, as it was pretty much derelict,” he said.
“People have been coming in voluntarily every day, doing whatever they can to get the rink back open. There’s still work to be done, but we’re really grateful to everyone who’s helped so far.
“The boys are all fired up now ready to finish the season off on a high and give the fans and everyone involved with the arena something to cheer about.
“We have a big stretch of home games and if we play to the level we can we will not be dropping many points and be right in the mix come the end.
“Our goals for the rest of the season are pretty simple – win every game we can and bring a few more trophies back to Ryde Arena come April.”
Oxford follow up the Wightlink game with a home fixture against MK Thunder on Sunday, which will see the teams compete for the John Cartwright Trophy for the first time ever.
John, a passionate ice hockey fan for at least 50 years, sadly passed away just before Christmas.
He was an avid Oxford fan and had been a regular fixture at hockey at matches at Oxpens Road since the rink opened in 1985.
When the Stars weren’t at home, John and his wife Ann could always be found up the road supporting Milton Keynes.
A collection was made at John’s funeral which was donated to the club who have now put the money towards the trophy they will play for every year against Thunder. Ann will present the trophy to the winning side on Sunday.
Ian Dibley, Supporter’s Liaison Officer for the Stars, said: “John was an avid supporter, and he’ll be missed at Oxpens Road and up at Milton Keynes.
“We were truly saddened when John passed away, so we’re really pleased that we can mark his tremendous support in this way.
“We’re really looking forward to Sunday, and here’s to the Stars being the first winners of the John Cartwright Trophy.”
Dave Fairhurst, General Manager of MK Thunder, added: “It’s great that we can recognise the support John has shown both teams – this is something the Thunder fully embrace.”
Thunder have boosted their roster ahead of the weekend with the signings of netminder Stephen Wall and forward Nick Poole.
The pair bring a wealth of EPL experience to the club, with Wall icing most recently for Guildford Flames, while Poole spent over a decade with MK Lightning.
London Raiders v Invicta Dynamos (Cup)
MK Thunder v Chelmsford Chieftains
Solent Devils v Streatham Redskins (Cup)
Wightlink Raiders v Oxford City Stars
Chelmsford Chieftains v London Raiders
Invicta Dynamos v Solent Devils
Oxford City Stars v MK Thunder
Wightlink Raiders v Bracknell Hornets
Chelmsford Warriors v Lee Valley Lions
Peterborough Islanders v Haringey Racers
Swindon Wildcats NIHL v Bristol Pitbulls